Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Marcions Have Landed


The Optional Jesus


The Slow Death of the Liberal Ethic

A Dominion of the Devil Widely Overlooked

And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to Him, “To You I will give all this dominion and its splendor, for it has been given over to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. If You, then, will bow to me, it will all be yours.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve.’” (Luke 4:5-8)

All the kingdoms/dominions/areas of earthly authority have been given to the devil as his possession to give it to those whom he wishes. And he gives it to those who bow down to/yield/follow him. 

If the world's system and the government support of that system are said to belong to the devil, does that mean that the zeitgeist found also in the primary schools of training also belong to the devil? 

In other words, not only the public school system that trains one in the religion of self and practical atheism, but the university which, if not under the kingdom of God/the Church, from which so many students and professors desire approval, falls under the dominion of the devil and the appointments therein are also given by him to those who will carry out his agenda.

Of course, this does not mean that there are no Christians in the universities. As in all of the devil's kingdoms, God has scattered His children within it in order to be lights in dark places.

But I say this for a point to ponder, because so many assume that academics/schooling is neutral ground and objectively carries out its work. It may on a human level believe such, but if it is true that an institution that functions with such authority within the world really belongs to the devil, then it must be true that one cannot merely trust the expression of the zeitgeist found within it. Instead, he should see it for what it is, and become a skeptic of it (judging it by God's Word) rather than a skeptic for it (judging God's Word by it).

In short, "What has Jerusalem to do with Athens?" They are two different kingdoms fighting it out. We should both live together in order to fight the data out, as God uses the defiance of the world toward His truth in order to sharpen His people in their understanding of the truth. Who would pursue the truth, or be challenged to do so, to much depth without the devil's institutions compelling him to do so? So it is good to enter the university understanding that one is entering a world that is hostile toward him seeing the Word of God as the standard for life and thought. It is bad for him to enter if he is unaware that the head of that institution is the serpent who wishes him to question God's Word in order to ultimately reject it.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Why Inerrancy Is Found in What the Bible Affirms, not Whatever the Bible Says

It should be obvious to all, but unfortunately, it isn't. The doctrine of inerrancy, as formulated by the Princetonians, and as it is understood throughout Church History, has to do with what the Bible is actually teaching versus what it merely uses to teach it.

Unfortunately, in the Enlightenment, we developed a mindset that extracts every detail out from a text and examines it as whether it, all by itself, standing on its own, is true or false, accurate or inaccurate.

Hence, if someone says, "I will search the four corners of the world to find you," one may note that the intent of this statement is to convey the subjects dedication toward finding the object, but he will also extract the phrase "the four corners of the earth" as an individual proposition "there are four corners of the earth," and by doing so reject the statement above as laden with error.

This, of course, is nonsensical. No one believes that the statements of the devil or liars recorded in Scripture are meant to be affirmed, but they are statements that support the linguistic means through which the intended truths are affirmed. As I've argued before here, language is filled with all sorts of imagery, mythology, phenomenology, and inaccuracies. That's because language is not omniscient (because the humans who speak language are not omniscient). That's also why you can never really know what an author really believes apart from his making statements like "there are four corners of the earth" as the intended affirmation in his writings (since he may be constructing that language from his own cosmological thinking or simply borrowing it from others).

No doubt, however, the ancient author may have believed that there were four corners of the earth, but that still does not justify the extraction and conclusion that his statement is erroneous, since it was not his purpose to convey a cosmology here, but only to express his dedication to the object of the sentence.

In other words, if I can use this same language without assuming its literal accuracy, and the ancient author can use it while assuming its literal accuracy, then it is clear that the assumption that functions as a linguistic support to another proposition does not have to be assumed as true or false in order to use it as such. 

When we approach something like the Bible, we have something rather unusual as well. We have two authors of every text, not one. We have both a divine and human author. Because of this, the human author may assume all of the linguistic expressions, known to us to be inaccurate, as true if he were to be asked if he believes them as separate propositions. But the same cannot be said of God, who is omniscient. Hence, it must be that God is using the human author's assumptions as language, not as individual statements of truth to be believed.

In fact, this helps us understand that the idea of "what the Bible affirms" is the only logical conclusion one who believes in biblical inspiration can make, since it is only in the affirmation where both God and man could be in agreement. God cannot agree that there are literally four corners of the earth, since He knows that such is not true. The human author can use that language, whether he assumes it to be true or not, in order to convey another truth. Hence, we see that assuming that one does not need to believe that these, what I will call "propositional supports," are literally true or accurate if dissected from the context and made to stand on their own, in order to convey the actual intended proposition of a text itself.

Now, of course, it's a common claim to say, "Well, you have to determine what the affirmation is, and that is dependent upon interpretation." Well, of course, it is. Who ever said it wasn't? But that has nothing to do with inerrancy.

For instance, if we just remove the Bible as a medium for a moment. If we believe that God will not lie to us and knows all things, and that we are about to receive a message from Him, I can say to myself, "Whatever God is going to say is going to be true." That's an a priori statement derived from other a priori beliefs. But I don't even know what He's said yet. That's going to come when I actually hear what He says.

Errancy functions on a priori's as well, but it does not assume that whatever the Bible says is true, since it is the Word of God. It assumes that whatever I believe is true and I have to investigate what is said first in order to determine whether it matches up with what I already believe. The trustworthy part in this case is me, not the Bible. The Bible must be judged to be trustworthy in so far as I have investigated it and considered it such.

So this isn't a matter of one view holding to an a priori (e.g., looking at the box top and trying to figure out the puzzle) and another view holding to a posteriori investigation (e.g., putting the pieces together first and then concluding what to make of it). Instead, it is a difference between a priori belief systems held by the opposing positions.

So investigation, i.e., interpreting the individual passages has nothing to do with the a priori assumptions that each group makes. Both have these assumptions.

Hence, there is nothing off the mark about saying that the Bible is inerrant in all that it affirms before knowing what it affirms. It only seems off the mark for those who use themselves and the zeitgeist (theirs of course, not the zeitgeist of other groups with which they disagree--but that's for another time) as the standard to judge whether all other statements are true.

But as I said, if language can and does use subordinate statements as linguistic clothing in order to express a proposition that is largely independent of that clothing, and can be conveyed in numerous ways with or without it, then the only logical thing to conclude is that truth and error cannot be assigned to the linguistic clothing, since it does not function as separate propositional statements that the author(s) intends to convey on its own.

To give an example of this, I mentioned a few weeks ago Matthew's intertwining in Jesus' words of two Zechariahs found in the Old Testament. Let's say that it was actually a mistake that Matthew made, and he fully believed that the details of the one Zechariah were associated with the other. What the Enlightenment has done to us is to cause us to ask, "Is it true that this Zechariah was killed as the earlier Zechariah, or is this an error?" But we fail to ask the question, "Whether the detail is accurate or inaccurate if extracted from the context, is this Matthew's point?" In other words, regardless of whether these details can stand as separate propositions, they are not the proposition being made. The proposition being made in that text is that the Jewish leaders who are in agreement, in word or deed, with those who committed murder are one with all of the murderers and will be guilty together with them as one group. From that, we might get a more general principle if we see that this is a common proposition attributed to more than just this specific group. And from that generic principle, we might draw an application that if we agree with, rather than condemn, the evil actions of others, we are one with them and guilty together with them of these crimes as a group.

What in the world does that have to do with which Zechariah Matthew is talking about or whether the two are confused? Answer: It doesn't. It has nothing to do with what is affirmed as true. Hence, inerrancy has nothing to do with these details that are not meant to be propositional statements unto themselves.

Now, am I arguing to reject detailed inerrancy? No. I'm saying there is no such thing to begin with. There is no such thing as detailed inerrancy and there is no such thing as detailed errancy. They don't exist, because the speaker/author isn't attempting to investigate or make a conclusion about the details for his audience. He may or may not believe them to be true, but he is not asking his audience to believe them as true in the text, so the text cannot be in error or not in error based upon those details. That is the Enlightenment fallacy committed by errantists and inerrantists alike. This erroneous practice seeks to ask whether something is true of every assumption and subordinate detail found within a text by transforming it from a subordinate detail to a main proposition. In the long history of linguistic and communicative fallacies, that has got to be one of the doozies. It assumes language to be omniscient and if it isn't, rejects what is said. That disrupts communication with finite beings. It does not enhance it. That's why I say to detailed errantists that they are committing a category error and ought to correct themselves and call themselves inerrantists instead.

The only true errantists who exist are those who reject the actual proposition being made as true. They are the ones who deny that everything a given biblical text affirms is true and without error.

Again, this should be obvious to all, but unfortunately, it isn't.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Loving the Holy God: Something to Ponder

If agreement with the world is being hostile toward God, and the world cannot receive Jesus, the real one, because of its sin, then it must be, as the Scripture indicates, that loving the true God and Jesus Christ who He has sent is a supernatural work that is done within the man who is regenerated.

But what that implies, of course, in light of what we have been talking about concerning God's wrath and violence toward wicked men, is that the true God and Jesus Christ, as they are revealed in Scripture, are unacceptable to the unregenerate man.

But many work hard to make our unacceptable God acceptable to all, even to those who are unregenerate and false believers. This cannot be accomplished without simply arguing for the existence of another God and another Jesus who is not the true God and Jesus Christ who are revealed in the Bible.

As Edwards once argued, it is loving God for His holiness that is completely unacceptable to the unregenerate man. He can love God for His love, for His grace, for His mercy, but not for His holiness and violent justice upon agents of evil if, as the Bible teaches, he, or someone he loves, is one of those agents of evil. Seeing God's holiness makes the unregenerate man despise the true God and Jesus Christ. He does not want to hear about this God of justice, who wipes out whole peoples for their sin and sends to hell the devil and his angels, together with all who follow their chaotic paths. He wants to hear about the accommodating God, the God who has mercy apart from any repentance or adoption of holiness by those men upon whom He has mercy, the God who does not judge or let anyone be judged for his murderous practices that divorce himself and others from the true God and His Christ.

What are we to conclude, then, but that all who argue for such an unholy God, who is not the God of the Bible who destroys the wicked in such a way, and is unforgiving toward unrepentant agents of chaos, but that they are unregenerate men, who do not love God because they have not been born of God. They love a god of their own liking, but not the Holy One of Israel, who is praised and exalted by His people for destroying their enemies, not condemned as a false god and evil father for preserving His children in holiness through the means of removing tempters and stumbling blocks, who are no more than vehicles of corruption and the would-be ultimate destruction of the people of God.

Saying one loves God is irrelevant, therefore, as one must define what he means by love and what God it is that he loves. If he loves God, he will agree with God's commandments and see God as beautiful in ALL of them. But if his declaration is of another god, he will despise the God of Israel, YHWH, the Father and the Son as He is revealed in Scripture by the Spirit, and testify that all should exalt and worship another god instead, one more palatable to all men, regenerate or not.

So this is no internal debate. What I've said above shows this to be a matter concerning the apostasy of worshiping another God, a heresy born in a pluralistic and polytheistic society, where terms are confused so that we might think that we are closer than we are. Such is a false unity and a deception that seeks to subtly creep in by using the language of the Bible in order to undermine, and ultimately replace, the God and Jesus of the Bible. And, as John tells us, this is the spirit of antichrist, which rejects the Father and the Son. And as such, this is no love of the true God at all.

Friday, February 22, 2013

A Great Example of Looking to Things to Come

One of my favorite stories in the apocrypha is of a woman and her seven sons who are persecuted by Antiochus IV for not adopting his paganism. It is recorded in 2 Maccabees 7.

A Mother and Her Sons Die for Their Faith

On another occasion a Jewish mother and her seven sons were arrested. The king was having them beaten to force them to eat pork. Then one of the young men said,
What do you hope to gain by doing this? We would rather die than abandon the traditions of our ancestors.
This made the king so furious that he gave orders for huge pans and kettles to be heated red hot, and it was done immediately. Then he told his men to cut off the tongue of the one who had spoken and to scalp him and chop off his hands and feet, while his mother and six brothers looked on. After the young man had been reduced to a helpless mass of breathing flesh, the king gave orders for him to be carried over and thrown into one of the pans. As a cloud of smoke streamed up from the pan, the brothers and their mother encouraged one another to die bravely, saying,
The Lord God is looking on and understands our suffering. Moses made this clear when he wrote a song condemning those who had abandoned the Lord. He said,
The Lord will have mercy on those who serve him.
After the first brother had died in this way, the soldiers started amusing themselves with the second one by tearing the hair and skin from his head. Then they asked him,
    Now will you eat this pork, or do you want us to chop off your hands and feet one by one?
He replied in his native language,
    I will never eat it! So the soldiers tortured him, just as they had the first one, but with his dying breath he cried out to the king,
    You butcher! You may kill us, but the King of the universe will raise us from the dead and give us eternal life, because we have obeyed his laws.
10 The soldiers began entertaining themselves with the third brother. When he was ordered to stick out his tongue, he quickly did so. Then he bravely held out his hands 11 and courageously said,
God gave these to me. But his laws mean more to me than my hands, and I know God will give them back to me again. 12 The king and those with him were amazed at his courage and at his willingness to suffer.
13 After he had died, the soldiers tortured the fourth one in the same cruel way, 14 but his final words were,
I am glad to die at your hands, because we have the assurance that God will raise us from death. But there will be no resurrection to life for you, Antiochus!
15 When the soldiers took the fifth boy and began torturing him, 16 he looked the king squarely in the eye and said,
You have the power to do whatever you want with us, even though you also are mortal. But do not think that God has abandoned our people. 17 Just wait. God will use his great power to torture you and your descendants.
18 Then the soldiers took the sixth boy, and just before he died he said,
    Make no mistake. We are suffering what we deserve, because we have sinned against our God. That's why all these terrible things are happening to us. 19 But don't think for a minute that you will avoid being punished for fighting against God.
20 The mother was the most amazing one of them all, and she deserves a special place in our memory. Although she saw her seven sons die in a single day, she endured it with great courage because she trusted in the Lord. 21 She combined womanly emotion with manly courage and spoke words of encouragement to each of her sons in their native language.
22 I do not know how your life began in my womb, she would say,
I was not the one who gave you life and breath and put together each part of your body. 23 It was God who did it, God who created the universe, the human race, and all that exists. He is merciful and he will give you back life and breath again, because you love his laws more than you love yourself.
24 Antiochus was sure that the mother was making fun of him, so he did his best to convince her youngest son to abandon the traditions of his ancestors. He promised not only to make the boy rich and famous, but to place him in a position of authority and to give him the title
    Friend of the King. 25 But the boy paid no attention to him, so Antiochus tried to persuade the boy's mother to talk him into saving his life, 26 and after much persuasion she agreed to do so. 27 Leaning over her son, she fooled the cruel tyrant by saying in her native language,
    My son, have pity on me. Remember that I carried you in my womb for nine months and nursed you for three years. I have taken care of you and looked after all your needs up to the present day. 28 So I urge you, my child, to look at the sky and the earth. Consider everything you see there, and realize that God made it all from nothing, just as he made the human race. 29 Don't be afraid of this butcher. Give up your life willingly and prove yourself worthy of your brothers, so that by God's mercy I may receive you back with them at the resurrection.
30 Before she could finish speaking, the boy said,
    King Antiochus, what are you waiting for? I refuse to obey your orders. I only obey the commands in the Law which Moses gave to our ancestors. 31 You have thought up all kinds of cruel things to do to our people, but you won't escape the punishment that God has in store for you. 32-33 It is true that our living Lord is angry with us and is making us suffer because of our sins, in order to correct and discipline us. But this will last only a short while, for we are still his servants, and he will forgive us. 34 But you are the cruelest and most disgusting thing that ever lived. So don't fool yourself with illusions of greatness while you punish God's people. 35 There is no way for you to escape punishment at the hands of the almighty and all-seeing God. 36 My brothers suffered briefly because of our faithfulness to God's covenant, but now they have entered eternal life. But you will fall under God's judgment and be punished as you deserve for your arrogance. 37 I now give up my body and my life for the laws of our ancestors, just as my brothers did. But I also beg God to show mercy to his people quickly and to torture you until you are forced to acknowledge that he alone is God. 38 May my brothers and I be the last to suffer the anger of Almighty God, which he has justly brought upon our entire nation.
39 These words of ridicule made Antiochus so furious that he had the boy tortured even more cruelly than his brothers. 40 And so the boy died, with absolute trust in the Lord, never unfaithful for a minute.
41 Last of all, the mother was put to death.
42 But I have said enough about the Jews being tortured and being forced to eat the intestines of sacrificial animals.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Jesus' Violent Return in Non-Apocalyptic Literature

"And if it pleases you also to serve Him (i.e., Jesus), it is not wealth nor the splendor that now exists in this life that will save you; but if you submit and entreat Him, you will be saved; for on one day He shall fight against the world with fire. And when Caesar heard that, he commanded all the prisoners to be burned with fire, but Paul to be beheaded after the law of the Romans." (The Acts of Paul III)

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Hell in the View of Early Christians

The Apocalypse of Peter was not only held in high regard by some Christians in the first few centuries, we are told that it was one of the antilegomena that was eventually rejected in terms of its being divinely inspired canon (although some churches received it as part of the canon, the larger church regarded it as a part of the notha "spurious" writings that were not to be accepted as part of the canon). However, it is interesting that the view found therein was received so well in the church, so as to be even considered, indicates that those within the early church may have had the same views that it did concerning the nature of hell, abortion, and homosexuality (three issues often in dispute today). In any case, I've presented the brief work below so that you might read it for yourself. I'm sure all liberals will be glad it never made it into the canon, since the work has such a "Dante-esque" feel to it.

The Apocalypse of Peter
1 . . . . many of them will be false prophets, and will teach divers ways and doctrines of perdition: but these will become sons of perdition. 3. And then God will come unto my faithful ones who hunger and thirst and are afflicted and purify their souls in this life; and he will judge the sons of lawlessness.
4. And furthermore the Lord said: Let us go into the mountain: Let us pray.. And going with him, we, the twelve disciples, begged that he would show us one of our brethren, the righteous who are gone forth out of the world, in order that we might see of what manner of form they are, and having taken courage, might also encourage the men who hear us.
6. And as we prayed, suddenly there appeared two men standing before the Lord towards the East, on whom we were not able to look; 7, for there came forth from their countenance a ray as of the sun, and their raiment was shining, such as eye of man never saw; for no mouth is able to express or heart to conceive the glory with which they were endued, and the beauty of their appearance. 8. And as we looked upon them, we were astounded; for their bodies were whiter than any snow and ruddier than any rose; 9, and the red thereof was mingled with the white, and I am utterly unable to express their beauty; 10, for their hair was curly and bright and seemly both on their face and shoulders, as it were a wreath woven of spikenard and divers-coloured flowers, or like a rainbow in the sky, such was their seemliness.
11. Seeing therefore their beauty we became astounded at them, since they appeared suddenly. 12. And I approached the Lord and said: Who are these? 13. He saith to me: These are your brethren the righteous, whose forms ye desired to see. 14. And I said to him: And where are all the righteous ones and what is the aeon in which they are and have this glory?
15. And the Lord showed me a very great country outside of this world, exceeding bright with light, and the air there lighted with the rays of the sun, and the earth itself blooming with unfading flowers and full of spices and plants, fair-flowering and incorruptible and bearing blessed fruit. 16. And so great was the perfume that it was borne thence even unto us. 17. And the dwellers in that place were clad in the raiment of shining angels and their raiment was like unto their country; and angels hovered about them there. 18. And the glory of the dwellers there was equal, and with one voice they sang praises alternately to the Lord God, rejoicing in that place. 19. The Lord saith to us: This is the place of your high-priests, the righteous men.
20. And over against that place I saw another, squalid, and it was the place of punishment; and those who were punished there and the punishing angels had their raiment dark like the air of the place.
21. And there were certain there hanging by the tongue: and these were the blasphemers of the way of righteousness; and under them lay fire, burning and punishing them. 22. And there was a great lake, full of flaming mire, in which were certain men that pervert righteousness, and tormenting angels afflicted them.
23. And there were also others, women, hanged by their hair over that mire that bubbled up: and these were they who adorned themselves for adultery; and the men who mingled with them in the defilement of adultery, were hanging by the feet and their heads in that mire. And I said: I did not believe that I should come into this place.
24. And I saw the murderers and those who conspired with them, cast into a certain strait place, full of evil snakes, and smitten by those beasts, and thus turning to and fro in that punishment; and worms, as it were clouds of darkness, afflicted them. And the souls of the murdered stood and looked upon the punishment of those murderers and said: O God, thy judgment is just.
25. And near that place I saw another strait place into which the gore and the filth of those who were being punished ran down and became there as it were a lake: and there sat women having the gore up to their necks, and over against them sat many children who were born to them out of due time, crying; and there came forth from them sparks of fire and smote the women in the eyes: and these were the accursed who conceived and caused abortion.
26. And other men and women were burning up to the middle and were cast into a dark place and were beaten by evil spirits, and their inwards were eaten by restless worms: and these were they who persecuted the righteous and delivered them up.
27. And near those there were again women and men gnawing their own lips, and being punished and receiving a red-hot iron in their eyes: and these were they who blasphemed and slandered the way of righteousness.
28. And over against these again other men and women gnawing their tongues and having flaming fire in their mouths: and these were the false witnesses.
29. And in a certain other place there were pebbles sharper than swords or any spit, red-hot, and women and men in tattered and filthy raiment rolled about on them in punishment: and these were the rich who trusted in their riches and had no pity for orphans and widows, and despised the commandment of God.
30. And in another great lake, full of pitch and blood and mire bubbling up, there stood men and women up to their knees: and these were the usurers and those who take interest on interest.
31. And other men and women were being hurled down from a great cliff and reached the bottom, and again were driven by those who were set over them to climb up upon the cliff, and thence were hurled down again, and had no rest from this punishment: and these were they who defiled their bodies acting as women; and the women who were with them were those who lay with one another as a man with a woman.
32. And alongside of that cliff there was a place full of much fire, and there stood men who with their own hands had made for themselves carven images instead of God. And alongside of these were other men and women, having rods and striking each other and never ceasing from such punishment.
33. And others again near them, women and men, burning and turning themselves and roasting: and these were they that leaving the way of God

Inerrancy as Humility

When confronted with a view of God in the Bible that I may find to be disturbing, I have two roads to take. I can either assume errancy: that the ancient writers of Scripture are broken, and thus, their view of God was distorted, and my view is not as broken as theirs--thus enabling me and my sensibilities to determine a more correct view of God in order to judge that their view of God is false; or I can assume inerrancy: that both I and the ancient authors are broken, but that God is capable of communicating Himself accurately to both of us.

The former is a purely anthropocentric endeavor. I am left to fight for my superior brokenness to their inferior brokeness. The latter is theocentric. I assume that, despite our brokenness, God is capable of communicating Himself rightly.

Errancy, then, is an arrogant stance, where modern humans assume that they are better equipped, due to their superior intellect, morality, existential connection to God via experience, etc., to discern God apart from verbal revelation from God Himself. I merely must assume that I am a better man than the ancient author was, and continually emphasize myself over and above him.

Inerrancy, however, emphasizes God's ability. It does not need me to consider myself as a better man than the ancient author. He is broken. I am broken. But God is not broken, nor is our finite brokenness a hindrance to His abilities.

That means that I am disturbed by those images of God, not because they are the disturbing images dreamed up by some broken man, and are therefore wrong views of God, but because I am broken and sick and thus distort the good character of God as an evil, precisely, because it does not match up to my own ideals--ideals born of an evil and rebellious mind (lifting my own understanding within my finitude above what is revealed), broken ideas from a broken man.

There can be only one option, then. Errancy is a game of the arrogant, who lift themselves up higher than others in order to achieve their supposedly higher images of God; but inerrancy is for the humble, who realize that no man is good, no, not even one; but that God is good and His word can go forth into darkness and create light without the darkness hindering a thing.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

What Is Love?

I know it seems like I'm always picking on my former professor, but I feel as though he has gone off the mark in his theological trajectory, precisely, because of misunderstandings like this one.

As I've mentioned before, we're going through 1 John right now as a family, and of course, I've been through it when preaching through it, and also in two different Greek Exegesis courses (and beyond that, I've studied it 'til the cows come home). But you don't need all of that to see what I'm going to say. You just need what you always need: context.

So what does John mean by the term "love"? If we fail to answer that question, as Dr. Enns does not answer it above, then we're really just assuming what it is. And, of course, assuming what a word means often means that we're importing a contemporary meaning into the term. And no term has been more confused in biblical study than this one.

Now, I don't fault Dr. Enns for this. I've heard people who are of my theological ilk also distort it by assuming its meaning, so this is just an important point of clarification. So here it is:

Love does not refer to your tone of voice, particular feelings/attitudes you might have toward someone when speaking to them, or keeping the peace between yourself and someone else. If it did, then Dr. Enns' post above would be relevant to the verse.

What John means by love, however, is giving what is needed to those Christians who need it. That's how he defines it. Love is taking from what you have in order to give it to another Christian in need. "Hatred" in John's vocabulary, then, is not harsh tones, a malicious intent, angry feelings, or a combative relationship with someone's ideas. Hatred is having what your brother needs to live and closing your heart toward him so that you do not give it.

What is ironic here is that John includes doctrine in this whole thing. Loving Christians means loving God first. Hence, one must obey God's commands in order to love people, and this is loving God as well. But what if someone does not obey His commands? According to John, rebuke is the right course of action of love. Turning a brother away from sin is loving.

Likewise, throughout his entire epistle, John has argued that defining God and Jesus differently than the apostles have is the spirit of antichrist that replaces the true Father and Son with a false God and a false Christ that cannot save others. Guiding one into orthodox truth, therefore, is a part of John's loving activity. It is part of love's course of action, and in John, love is action, not feeling. It consists of words and deeds, not simply words. 

Hence, surrounding his rebuke of heretical theology is his discussion of loving the Father and the Son and loving fellow Christians. Truth is vital to love. After all, if you give someone some food but do nothing when you see him honor a false Christ and damned by a false gospel, how can you say that you love that person? 

Love is also exclusive, therefore, because it must clearly show what is in and outside the bounds of knowing God and Jesus whom He has sent. It must tell us who is "in" and who is "out," and so John tells us just those things by giving assurance to those who have the marks of being a Christian (i.e., they pursue apostolic orthodoxy and taking care of other Christians who are also children of God), as well as telling us who are out (i.e., those who deny the Father and the Son, who do not adhere to the teaching of the apostles, who do not love in word and deed). 

Now, I'm not saying that all theological debates are displays of love. Some are just displays of one or more of the persons to gain superiority and control over others. But, you see, that is a motivation that cannot be seen. Jesus Himself looks arrogant to many when He spends His life (yes, His entire ministry is spent in debate) debating those who are theologically and ethically wayward. But we know that He is perfect and does this out of love for His people (every debate is a learning opportunity to teach those who belong to God and mark boundary lines of what is pleasing to God for them that they may be wary of crossing them).

So I cannot judge motivations (we are commanded in Scripture not to attempt it anyway), but I can judge whether debating theology, and even spending your life doing so, is consistent with, rather than in contradiction to, love as John defines it. And it is consistent, or John wouldn't be doing it, nor would he condemn the Lord doing it, or the rest of the apostles for doing it (were they not always in the synagogues picking a fight, so it seems to us). Contending for the faith, fighting the good fight, taking every thought captive for the sake of Christ, these are all the flowers of love. Sure, someone can give you flowers and hope you get allergies, or give them to you with false motives; but the flowers themselves cannot be the evidence of someone being unloving, since, indeed, they are often the fruit of it.

So my answer to the question, "What about love?" would have been, "What about it? I just described a life of love to you. It is a life sacrificing time and energy in order to preserve the lives of God's children from chaotic ideologies and ethics that would tear them from Him."

Instead, I would have asked this student, "Why have you chosen this path if you could narrow it down to one reason?" That gets to the motivation, but the act itself cannot be confused with the motivation. That's a common mistake I hear, and have heard, all of my life whenever conflict exists, and that can only be attributed to a culture that confuses love with comfort and maintaining a false peace. As I've said before, love works toward shalom, and shalom throughout the Bible is most often achieved in a chaotic world by going to war with the chaos, not making peace with it. John's concept of love is in continuity with that biblical understanding.

What that all means is that, more often than not, it is the person who does not engage in correcting his brother who needs to be corrected in order to save his life, who is hating his brother rather than loving him. If you want to chew on something profound, chew on that one for awhile. Our problem is that we hold our tongues too often when we need to speak what is true on important matters, and then turn around and let them fly on matters that we could have just let go. That's because our biggest problem is that we love ourselves, and so want ourselves defended and our personal opinions heard, but have little love for God and His revealed concerns, since to be concerned of those things would be to sacrifice our own ideas and concerns so that God might be exalted as true, and that His children might see and fellowship with Him in the truth. Our problem, then, as usual, is that we don't discuss theology and ethics because we love ourselves too much, we want to maintain comfort and false peace, and will only disrupt it when the Self is at stake.

That, to me, is a far more serious concern than someone who commits his life, as the prophets, apostles and the Lord Himself did, to a life of submitting their own ideas to the Father in love and calling others to do the same because you love them too.